The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is not Baja California. Nor is it the Copper Canyon, or Oaxaca, or Guanajuato-Queretaro; it’s flat, its roads have about three bends every thousand miles, and most of its Caribbean coast is a tourist zoo where drinking bucket-sized margaritas and curing your sunburn is the pinnacle of fun. accomplishment of humanity.
So why the hell would you travel to Yucatan on a motorbike?
The Yucatan is a tough cookie
Around 66 million years ago, a massive asteroid hit the ocean just off the coast of Yucatan, wiping out around 75% of life on Earth, including dinosaurs. It’s a big boom.
Yucatan, however? It reinvented itself as a wonderfully odd hollow limestone formation dotted with cenotes, underground pools that have no equivalent anywhere else on the planet. Cenotes are sinkholes opening entrances into underground caves and exposing crystal-clear groundwater, some going up to 300 meters. Each cenote is unique – some have a large opening, others just a mousehole for an entrance; others are still only accessible through another cave.
What they all have in common, however, are incredible rock formations, stalactites and cool, otherworldly blue water, perfect for cooling off after a ride. Or before the trip. Or at any convenient time you encounter one, really.
Mayan Ruins vs Haciendas
Aside from the wonders of nature, the Yucatan has a lot to offer when it comes to Mayan ruins and pyramids; some of them, like the Chitchen Itza, are well known and accessible by shuttle bus. Others are hidden in the jungle, and the only way to see them is to find them by bike following a small dark farm road or a single track trail.
If you’re not into your Mayan history, there’s another layer of heritage visible throughout the Yucatan Peninsula: abandoned haciendas. These massive estates once served as centers for making ropes from the fibers of the henequen cactus (yes, a cousin of the agave in a way; yes, agave is where tequila comes from).
In the mid-18th and early 20th centuries, Yucatan hacienda owners became so wealthy and powerful that the estates looked more like self-governing countries with their own stores and even currency; Built, unsurprisingly, on the backs of exploited indigenous peoples, the riches of the Yucatan haciendas were breathtaking as they held a firm monopoly on rope-making worldwide.
Then synthetic materials arrived and the Yucatan rope trade became obsolete overnight. That’s why so many of these haciendas are simply abandoned, and it’s a sight to behold exploring these once-luxurious massive mansions and servants’ quarters that are now slowly being taken over by vines, trees and iguanas.
But what about the bike?
Adventure riding is about nature, people, and places off the beaten path, but it’s all about riding. So what does riding in Yucatan look like?
Hot and dusty as hell if you are unfortunate enough to be there between March and October. From November to March, it has its charms. There are so many dirt trails criss-crossing the peninsula that you could spend a few weeks exploring, and most of them lead to places few tourists can see.
Major highways are straight and boring, much like major highways pretty much anywhere in the world, but smaller backcountry roads can be fun, especially if you accidentally wander off and end up in the dirt Yucatan Mennonite where horse and buggy are still the main means of transportation.
Finally, the Caribbean coast is full of gems of the land – just think Mahahual instead of Cancun. The Bacalar area can also be spectacular on land, as you ride down palm-lined tracks and on your way to the turquoise blue Bacalar Lake where you can camp by the water and sip a cold beer. In other words, if you want to get off the main roads, the Yucatan has plenty to offer.
And the best part is that the people of Yucatan are as welcoming and friendly as anywhere in Mexico. From little old Mayan ladies selling tacos, to campground owners, fellow travelers, or just passers-by, the Yucatan Peninsula is easily one of the friendliest places to travel.
One of the safest too – Merida, a colonial gem of a city, is the second safest city in North America after Quebec. It’s like the Geneva of Mexico. It’s pretty cool.
So whether you’re traveling Mexico on your own bike or looking for an excursion, don’t skip the Yucatan. It’s weird, it’s flat, and it’s utterly wonderful.
Want to ride in Mexico? Here’s where to start looking:
All motorcycle tours in Mexico: MOTOURISMO
Motorcycle tours in Yucatan: MotoVerdeMexico